No.36: 60 Seconds with Harrier Tom Monks

Another of the long servicing club members, although he doesn’t look to have aged as much as the rest of us! He’s also the proud owner of the oldest Clonliffe club vest ever, it’s a nice grey and yellow one!

Bio: I am a long time Scout, Civil Servant, and one time farmer, who loves to run. I am married with two boys (neither of whom has ever run – my fault I fear, they think I am obsessed!). Never was much of a runner, just about average, times and teams wise but I trained hard and long with some Clonliffe greats such as Padraig Keane, Peter McDermott, the Prince to name a few. That is the thing about running, even average runners can train, and race with the best – how many other sports allow you to do that. I love the feeling on those days when running clicks and you are coasting along, almost without effort, and time just seems to fly by.

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I was about 13, and in first year in St. Aidan’s. I wasn’t into football or hurling and tried running after a pep talk from the great Br. Clarke and got hooked. Br. Clarke had time for all runners, of all abilities and encouraged each of us to run to the maximum of our abilities.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? Most of the good runners in St. Aidan’s at the time were members of the club and it was the most natural place to go to if you wanted to run outside school term. Also one of the teachers, Peter McDermott, ran for them, and positive role models matter.

What is your favourite training workout? In my hay, it was a hard 14/16 mile group run on a Winter’s Thursday night with the senior men leading the way and dragging us young pretenders around. Subtle coaching was the order of the day, amazing how much we learnt on those runs – about life and running!

And your least favourite? 200m intervals – blew my hamstring twice on these – to be approached with care.

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? Love the Morton Games and in particular the Mile, the whole night is uplifting. On a personal level I used to enjoy the meet on the grass track in College Park (TCD), it was a lovely surface to race on a summers evening in the days of cinder tracks. Other than that nothing beats the Club 10,000m, especially in former times when all the top club athletics ran – I have never forgotten the buzz the first time I beat Padraig Keane in the 10,000!

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) Most Cherished?. That has to be my last race for St Aiden’s’. I won my first, and only, individual medal for the school behind two great athletes – Brian Dunne and Andy Ronan. It was over 5000m in Belfield at the CBS track & Field Championships and why I cherish it was because Br. Clarke, who always encouraged me to keep trying, was there to congratulate me after the race with that smile on his face he had when one of his lads did well. Proudest was a club 10m, in, I think, the year before the Los Angeles Olympics. Jerry Kiernan blasted around the course, a sign of the great form he was to go on to show in the Olympic Marathon, however, I ran a breakthrough time of about 54mins and, I think, was in the top 3 or 4, but it was being up front in a race with senior runners for the first time that mattered and not whether in 3rd or 4th place. I did run faster but always remember that this was the first time I felt proud of myself as a Clonliffe runner – and I have never forgotten the quiet words of praise for a good run from senior runners, words that cost little but meant a lot.

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? Plantar fasciitis a few years ago. It side-lined me for about 10 months. I tried various remedies and practitioners but got no relief, eventually I got ultrasound treatment in the Sports Surgery Clinic and that cleared it up. Note of caution for others – I got back running normally too quickly after such a long time off and ended up with a stress fracture within 6 weeks of resuming running, so another 6 weeks off!

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? Don’t try to do too much, too young, it takes time to build up to the sessions you will see the older and more experienced athletes doing. Also listen to your coaches, have a rest outside competition and, for those young aspiring distance runners out there, don’t try really high mileage when in your teens and when in secondary school – as I was once told you need somewhere to go training wise in your twenties – the moto ‘make haste slowly’ has a lot of wisdom in it!

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) Sorry, none I could repeat.

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition – try to eat normally but do avoid heavy protein meals like red meat the day or two before a race. I don’t eat much the day of a race but porridge in the morning and tea and toast about two/three hours before a race is a favourite. B. Outside competition – Any fish dish but especially Sandre (Pike Perch, sometimes called Zander), a fresh water fish and a speciality in the Loire river region of France – lovely with a buerre blanc sauce, green beans and garlic.

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish – Two – John Treacy and Sonia O’Sullivan B. International – Brendan Foster

What’s your favourite…? A. Film – ? B. Song or Album – Downtown, sung by Petula Clark. C. Book – Again difficult. I love non-fiction history books e.g. D-Day by Antony Beevor, I also enjoyed the Inspector Morse series – which are very different to the TV Series.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? France, especially the Loire valley region and Paris.

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? I have been a member of 1st Dublin (LHO) Scout Group since 1973 and love camping, hiking, nature and generally the great outdoors.

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Put the big meets back onto free to view television and bring in no second chance compulsory life bans for drug cheats.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Who really knows? Hmm, difficult question, really should ask someone else – maybe quiet, thoughtful and obsessive runner – that’s four words but there you go!

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) After the last few years of injuries my goal is to be able to run every day and after that competing is a bonus. Until you can’t run for an extended period you forget to cherish the present and that running is a gift which can be taken away.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? I have to say I am so busy in work (I work in the Department of Health) that running is my relief valve so I look forward to getting out every day. We runners are so lucky to be able to continue to do what we love it is also a great way to have ‘me’ time and sort out your head.

Tom Monks attired in vintage Clonliffe vest, Dublin Masters Phoenix Park